RECENT statements from both the Afghan Taliban and the new US administration indicate that the peace agreement signed between Washington and the Afghan militia in Doha last year may be in peril unless both sides make more of an effort to save it. A statement from the Taliban on Friday accused the US of ‘violating’ the accord by targeting civilians, though the militia’s spokesman tweeted that they remain “fully committed” to the plan. This appears to be a reaction to recent American statements, in which senior members of the Biden administration have questioned the sustainability of the Trump-era peace agreement. A top Pentagon official said that while the US stood by the Doha agreement, the Taliban would have to meet “their commitments to renounce terrorism” and stop violent attacks. While the Taliban and the Kabul government have been meeting to talk peace, violent confrontations on the battlefield between both sides continue, which has prompted the new American administration to question the Taliban’s commitment to the peace plan.

Indeed, it would be ideal for all foreign forces to exit Afghanistan and leave the security of the country to the government. The country has seen decades of instability primarily due to foreign meddling in its internal affairs. However, the Taliban’s paradoxical stance of talking and fighting at the same time has cast serious doubts over the peace process, and in this regard the Biden administration’s concerns are genuine. If the Doha agreement is to survive, and if the talks between Kabul and the Taliban are to succeed, there needs to be an immediate cessation of hostilities from the militia, particularly attacks targeting civilians. If these processes fail, there is a strong likelihood that the ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan will continue. While outsiders have played a role in destabilising Afghanistan, Afghan warlords and power-hungry factions have also done their bit to ensure peace is not established in their homeland. Today, the onus is on the Taliban to silence their guns and give peace a chance.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2021

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